At 60, Experts Highlight Opportunities, Challenges in Aviation Sector

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Chinedu Eze
Experts in aviation have x-rayed the performance of the industry since the nation’s Independence, saying even though so much has been achieved, more needs to be done.
The Chief Executive Officer of Aero Contractors, Captain Ado Sanusi told THISDAY that Nigeria has recorded many achievements in the aviation, just as he stressed that more needed to be done for the country to become globally competitive.

Sanusi said air transport sector has existed for almost 100 years in Nigeria and has grown to a high level since the first aircraft landed in the country in 1925, and flight operations started in 1936.

“The Civil Aviation Act that made the regulatory body autonomous is worthy of commendation. Nigeria established the Nigerian Civil Aviation Authority (NCAA), the Federal Airports Authority of Nigeria (FAAN), the Accident Investigation Bureau (AIB), the Nigerian Airspace Management Agency (NAMA) and the Nigerian Meteorological Agency (NIMET), which have greatly improved the industry and separated service providers from the regulators.
“By doing that Nigeria has maintained the best standards and has also abided by the rules of the International Civil Aviation Orgsnaisation (ICAO),” Sanusi said.

Sanusi, however, said while Nigeria needs to build very strong carriers, kudos should be given to Aero Contractors, which was registered in Nigeria in 1960, making it the oldest airline in the country.
Not only that the airline has lasted for 60 years, it has also established the first Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) for commercial and relatively larger body aircraft, Boeing 737 both in West and Central Africa, he said.

“In the area of training, the Nigerian College of Aviation Technology (NCAT), Zaria has trained hundreds of pilots and engineers who have made their marks globally. It has also trained other professionals and ensured the supply of the needed manpower for the sector,” the CEO said.

Speaking in the same vein, the General Secretary of Aviation Round Table and the Managing Director of Centurion Securities, Group Captain John Ojikutu, told THISDAY that in the last 60 years, the number of federal, states and private airports has increased from about 12 before Independence, to about 26 today.

“International airports have increased also to five, from two; the passenger traffic has increased from a level below one million to about 15 million.
“Aside from Nigeria Airways at Independence, there had been over 30 private airlines in and out of the industry so also are the foreign airlines that were also not more than 10 but today about thirty.

“With all these seen as development, there isn’t much progress towards the global standard. The Nigeria Airways that was built as national carrier became defunct as a government carrier; the lifespan of the private airlines on the average, fall short of ten years; they were mostly single ownership without management board.
“The major and common problems of the private and public operators are; poor business plans; poor financial health and ineffective oversight on the compliance to the economic regulations by the responsible regulatory authority,” Ojikutu said.

He also noted that there is inadequate aeronautical facilities at most airports that either make them dormant or out of operation at sunsets or in inclement weather, thus giving multiple destinations to the foreign airlines and the lack of considerations for the markets on the domestic routes for the domestic airlines.

“We must review our policies that put the foreign airlines before the domestic airlines on the domestic routes by limiting the destinations of the foreign airlines to either Lagos or Abuja and any other but they can make multiple landings at these airports daily or weekly.

“If we cannot establish a national carrier, we should at least make policies that would give rooms for three flag carriers for regional, continental and intercontinental regions. “However, no domestic airlines should be designated as regional without fulfilling the requirements of the commercial audit reports for at least three years before going regional; another successful three years audit reports before continental and another before the intercontinental routes.
“It should not again be automatic or a finger call to put a domestic airline on international routes if they would be designated and called flag carrier,” he added.